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Deciding where to stay in Puerto Vallarta is not easy. The internet returns hundreds of luxury hotel options with confusing all-inclusive terminology, vacation clubs, timeshare options and other hotels that look more like the place where your teenager self would have enjoyed Spring Break than that for a refined couple or chic group of friends. In terms of lodging in Puerto Vallarta, the most important decision related to the best hotel is determining what you will be doing.
If you are looking for a luxury hotel in Puerto Vallarta, the options run the gamut of high-end full blown resorts with all the facilities you can think of to private homes and villas perched on the hillside above the sea. If you are going with kids, the larger comprehensive resorts are a good choice, but you may end up a bit far from town. If you are looking for seclusion, try to stay out of the Playa los Muertos, where all the sodoma and gomorra and the loud music overtakes the evening sound of the waves.
If you want to explore the city, and don’t have a car, most of the local places to eat and shops to wander around are in the downtown cobblestoned area around the Malecon so you don’t want to stay too far from. I found this part of Puerto Vallarta to be both a bit of a tourist trap but also much more charming and real. Yes, there are stores selling all things tourist, from Mexican sombreros to fluo vests, but there are also pretty trees, colourful bougainvillea, irregular sidewalks and Cenadurias (local dining rooms) where to mingle with the locals. This is where I would stay if I was planning to explore the city and din’t just want to get a tan.
Here is also where the bars and clubs are and where most of the action takes place so, day and night, you will be entertained.
If you have a car and are looking for a hotel a bit more luxurious and exclusive, head south of Puerto Vallarta. The steep and windy road heading south hides some gems with fabulous views of the sea and the sunset and the peace of tranquility. And when you crave some fun and noise, Puerto Vallarta downtown is only a short car ride away.
All inclusive beach resorts
For those looking for the convenience of an all-inclusive vacation with the family, most of the vacation clubs and resorts are located between the Puerto Vallarta Marina (and the airport) and the downtown area along the stretch of flat beach. You will find all the big brands here sprawling large properties with multiple swimming pools, beach access and lots of facilities.
Another all-inclusive area dominated by the large brands but located close to the yachting heart of Puerto Vallarta. The area is very different from the rest of town, it is newer, more modern and international but that comes at the expense of charm.
Best resorts in Puerto Vallarta
Now that you have chosen what area to stay at, you must decide on the best resort in each area. Here are our picks of the best hotels, resorts and villas in Puerto Vallarta.
Best resorts in Puerto Vallarta downtown
The downtown area is dominated by older and smaller properties and it is hard to discern the good from the bad.
Garlands del Rio is a quaint property full of character and individuality. It is a small hotel that cannot compare with the large resorts and all-inclusive properties but, what it lacks in size it offsets with location in the downtown area and personality. A gem for those wanting to be in the midst of the fun but within an little oasis of peace. Here, you will know you are in Mexico. After all, why else would you travel?
Another property that deserves mention is Hacienda San Angel. A Mediterranean meets the countryside with pretty rooftop views, four poster beds, low ceilings, chandeliers, carved wooden doors and even a chapel with fabulous views. For a stay that will feel like visiting an old friend stay here.
Best secluded and exclusive resorts in Puerto Vallarta
South of Puerto Vallarta lies a stretch of mountain perched villas, high-end resorts and quieter areas. The beach may be rockier in some patches but the hilltop views are stunning and more than make up for it.
A few properties are a highlight. Mousai Hotel, part of the Garza Blanca Preserve Resort and Spa complex but targeting only adults, has one of the most stunning infinity rooftop pools with perfect sunset views. The rooms are huge yet the decor might be a bit tacky to some, mixing red and black with golden, but it is modern and new. Rooms have large balconies with the same pool views and outdoor jacuzzi.
Garza Blanca Preserve Resort and Spa, the family oriented part of the resort, is a great property for those in a group or looking for a quality resort with good international food. There is not much of Mexico reflected anywhere in the property, but you will be pampered at the spa and enjoy great (if sometimes pushy) service from all the staff. The resort is also a very good value timeshare Vacation Club. At the two original buildings on the lower levels you can hear the sound of the waves from your bed, whereas the buildings on the mountain are more spacious and have expansive views.
If you are in search of a more personalised and smaller resort, Casa Karma Boutique Resort is the place. Food is delicious and the staff friendly with similar views to Garza Blanca. Beware the beach there is not the fluffy type either, but the swimming pool more than compensates. No spa available. Read my full review of Garza Blanca here.
Best resorts in Puerto Vallarta Marina
The Marina area has fewer options than the downtown and the resorts here are not as high top class as elsewhere but if you are a golfer, the courses are nearby and the airport is a stone’s throw away.
For adults-only peace, try the Luxury Suites at Casa Velas Adults Only resort. The resort is exclusive and luxurious with grand common areas and large rooms. The all-inclusive plan may even include diving and the food gets rave reviews. This is the best of the lot, a few paces ahead from the rest.
If you favour the big international brands, both Marriott and Westin have all inclusive properties. Whereas the CasaMagna Marriott Resort and Spa is right by the beach, it also has access to two golf courses that are very near. With the Westin Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa you can benefit from the big chain’s rewards. Expect a friendly team, a relaxing atmosphere and contemporary comfort.
Melia Vacation Club has a family oriented resort too. It is slightly more affordable and less flash, but still good with the kids.
Best resorts in Puerto Vallarta all-inclusive stretch
I call the area between the Marina and the downtown are the all-inclusive stretch. All-inclusive resorts are lined up in front of the wide beach with little nearby to remind you you are in Mexico. But if you came here you probably just wanted to get away from it all, have an easy vacation and not have to lift a finger to be served.
Secrets Puerto Vallarta is one of the few larger resorts in the area. Its location by the sea and near the Malecon is praised, as are its pool suites and the facilities it has access to, at sister property Now Amber Puerto Vallarta. Whereas Secrets is the adults-only resort, Now Amber has all the family-friendly facilities. Their all-inclusive packages are loved for the unlimited cocktails. This is a large resort for grown-up romance.
The other well known resort here is the Sheraton Bugainvillias, a convention center of mammoth dimensions so there will never be time to be bored. You can even take salsa lessons. Even though the Sheraton is located on the all-inclusive stretch, it is the closest to town you can also stroll into Puerto Vallarta for evening entertainment and more options. If there ever was a need for that.